Producers of the drama ‘Vi' (Taste) have been fined by Vietnamese authorities for submitting it without a publishing permit to the Berlin International Film Festival 2021, where the feature film won the Special Jury Award in the Encounters section.
The chief inspector of Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has recently levied an administrative penalty on Le Bien Pictures Co. Ltd., Vi’s production house, after the company entered the movie in the 71st iteration of Berlin International Film Festival without obtaining any publishing permit for it from Vietnamese authorities.
Le Bien was fined VND35 million (US$1,522) for this breach, as per a local decree.
The penalty for the distributor was approved in April, but had not been informed to the press until Monday.
So far, Le Bien has not registered the movie to the licensing authority as they have no foreseeable intention of distributing it in the domestic market, said Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Vietnam Cinema Department under the culture ministry, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday.
Thanh has watched the movie and commended its director for the experimental ideas he incorporated in his debut feature.
“The producers were wrong for sending the movie to competition without obtaining a publishing permit, but it was only an administrative fine,” Thanh said.
“Artistic-wise, the film holds its own merits.”
Vi is the debut feature film of director Le Bao, which was produced by Le Bien Pictures and Singapore-based E&W Films.
It is distributed internationally by Wild Bunch International.
The 97-minute flick tells the story of a Nigerian footballer who went to Vietnam for a professional career, but had to move in with four middle-aged Vietnamese women after his team is liquidated.
The Encounters section, in which Vi won the Special Jury Award, was created to support new voices in cinema and make room for diverse narrative and documentary forms.
Vi is not the first award-winning production to be subsequently faced with licensing issues from Vietnam’s censorship body.
In 2020, Vietnamese drama film 'Rom,' which was honored with the top award at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), was also slapped with a fine of VND40 million ($1,739) for joining the fest without first acquiring a screening permit at home.